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Poster: steam locomotive Date: Oct 21, 2011 1:20pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Recurring motifs

Apologies in advance for the esoteric nature of this post.

Everyone knows how major thematic jams would pop up in different songs throughout the Dead's career (e.g., the "Tighten Up" appears in pre-retirement Dancing in the Streets as well as pre-72 Dark Stars).

I've seen less mention, however, of what I would call "recurring motifs": highly melodic riffs or phrases that appear in different songs through different eras, and don't quite rise to the level of unique jams. A common one would be a Franklin Tower-ish riff which appears everywhere from the famed Soundcheck Jam to JGB versions of Lonesome and a Long Way.

Here's one I picked up on today: a lovely, recursive little riff that clearly reveals itself in the climactic St. Stephen jam of this show:

http://www.archive.org/details/gd77-03-20.sbd.miller.25610.sbeok.shnf

Now where have I heard that before? In the closing Bird Song jam of this show:

http://www.archive.org/details/gd1973-06-22.sbd.miller.88526.sbeok.flac16

Cool, no? Wonder how that happened. Does anyone have any other examples? Does anyone know what the hell I'm talking about?

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Oct 21, 2011 9:48pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Recurring motifs

Good catch. Lovely riff, too - I bet it shows up in other spots as well.
This is one VERY early instance of that kind of riff, it's almost the same note pattern actually, just played in a much heavier style -
http://www.archive.org/details/gd1966-11-19.sbd.miller.94106.sbeok.flac16
Dancin' in the Streets, from about 3:09 to 3:30. In classic Garcia style, he repeats it a few times and then steadily changes it into a different flow.

I've noticed Weir in the '70s will sometimes throw in the China Cat riff here & there in various jams (like Franklin's Tower), perhaps because it's so adaptable.
With Garcia, considering all the long solos & jams he played, the amazing thing is not that he repeated a few riffs from time to time, but that he didn't repeat MORE.
Time and again, he'll come up with some little melodic riff to die for, repeat it for just a few bars, and then never play it again. Like, to take one unique Dark Star jam out of many, that little riff he plays near the end of the 4/8/72 Dark Star, where Phil joins in & they make a new jam out of it - you'd think, after that, he'd try it again in more of the Europe '72 Stars that followed. But NO! Played once and gone.

A couple more examples, at random:
http://www.archive.org/details/gd85-06-14.sbd.carman.13747.sbeok.shnf
The jam after China Doll: the first minute of track 15. He hints at this after other China Dolls, 4/28/85 in particular, but I think this is unique.

http://www.archive.org/details/gd72-12-11.sbd.vernon.5251.sbeok.shnf
Mississippi Half-Step, from 9:25 - 9:55 (Granted, he does repeat this in the next Half-Step on 12/31/72, but it's gone in '73, so these two Half-Steps are unique in their endings as far as I've heard.)

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Poster: steam locomotive Date: Oct 22, 2011 7:32am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Recurring motifs

Great counter-examples. The first time I heard that little riff in the Wembley Dark Star, time sorta stopped for me. And of course he never does it again.

On a similar note, in the first ever Eyes (2/9/73), Weir repeats that haunting descending phrase throughout the song. First and last time he does it.

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Poster: unclejohn52 Date: Oct 21, 2011 1:57pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Recurring motifs

I'm having trouble pin-pointing the motifs... if you had approx. timings that might be helpful.

What I have noticed is that there are many jams that take off based on only two chords - and Garcia can really make the most of just two. It's debatable whether or not some solos use familiar riffs or motifs, just in different keys. He's allowed to plagiarize himself....

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Poster: steam locomotive Date: Oct 21, 2011 2:06pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Recurring motifs

In St. Stephen: roughly 8:00 - 8:20

In Bird Song: 12:20 - 12:50

It's more prominent in Bird Song. Plus, this IS a bit subjective. I tend to see it less as plagiarism and more as an intertexual allusion on the fly.

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Poster: unclejohn52 Date: Oct 21, 2011 2:24pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Recurring motifs

Thanks - now I hear it- it seems to be a simple 3-step scale - repeated. Almost like a scale-fingering exercise... not surprising. The remarkable thing for me is how much of Garcia's magic is built on simple building blocks, beautifully combined together with the trademark tone.

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Poster: rdenirojb87 Date: Oct 21, 2011 2:36pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Recurring motifs

"The remarkable thing for me is how much of Garcia's magic is built on simple building blocks, beautifully combined together with the trademark tone."

Lately I've been jamming along with the boys on my Strat a good amount, and it is absolutely stunning when you realize the creativity Jerry had when it came to not being repetitive within a 2 chord, or 3 chord jam. Sometimes he even stays within 1 chord for quite awhile, and is somehow able to never repeat himself. I'm not sure if people realize how difficult this is. Jerry could play the same 12 notes, in a thousand different ways, by alternating not just notes, but the phrasing, loudness, picking method, etc. He still blows my mind almost every day. Love you Jerry.

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Poster: clementinescaboose Date: Oct 21, 2011 9:51pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Recurring motifs

Your post makes me smirk with delight b/c it articulates so well why I love the man...there is just NO ONE else who plays the way he does!

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Poster: high flow Date: Oct 21, 2011 3:01pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Recurring motifs

Yeah, right on.

Guitarist ranging in skill from total hack (like myself) up to fairly accomplished copiers of Garcia's style tend to have a few tricks and very often tend repeat a signature riff. It seems ole' Jer had an aversion to repetition. I think that is the main reason why so many have compared his style and phrasing to the great improvisational jazz artists. Always a twist to the standard arrangement.

To me, that is why listening to Garcia is so very interesting. Creativity unfolds before your very ears.

It's probably the same reason why it was so much fun to play WITH Jerry......if you could hang.

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Poster: unclejohn52 Date: Oct 21, 2011 2:56pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Recurring motifs

I am certainly stunned by it... even more mind-blowing when you think about he's playing the same songs hundreds of times, and coming up with fresh approaches repeatedly. Others may not regard him as highly as say, Hendrix, Clapton or Stevie Ray, but for me, Garcia has the most range, a wider breadth of songs, the sweetest tone, the most creativity, more musicality and lyricism - he's numero uno. A minstrel for the ages.

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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Oct 21, 2011 2:41pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Recurring motifs

Excellent post,I can't point to any examples but I have heard a number of them over the years.In listening to your links it does sound very similar with the Bird Song sample sounding a bit sharper,I think UJ52 explained it perfectly for people like myself with a poor music vocabulary and brought it home with a good point about Jerry's style.This would seem like a post for LIA to dole out some wisdom on,time permitting.

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Poster: jackaroe_RI Date: Oct 21, 2011 4:28pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Recurring motifs

I get what you're saying but to come up with examples on the allusional fly is beyond my cognitive capabilities at the present time.

There are tons of "almost" mind left body, nobody's fault and blues themed that occur very frequently when transitioning into another song.

If Koons is as greedy as some in the community have mentioned- i.e. refusing to invest additional resources to ensure Jerry's personal recordings are properly preserved (I've only read about this and the allegations could be complete fabrications) why doesn't she release "pure Jerry" stuff like Zappa's Shut Up and play You're Guitar box sets???
I'd certainly buy a compilation of top notch high quality Garcia Guitar solos. Zappa released 3!!! I bought all of those and love them.

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Poster: rdenirojb87 Date: Oct 21, 2011 2:17pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Recurring motifs

i can hear it in your example. i've noticed recurring motifs several times but i've never made note of them so it will be hard to find them now. sometimes it is clearly intentional, while other times i've noticed just slight similarities that probably occur because the band is in the same key. i've noticed mostly jerry with these little motifs, but also phil on occasion. i wish i could find some examples that i've heard. i'm sure lia would have some light to shed on this matter.

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Poster: Space Jogger Date: Oct 22, 2011 9:02am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Recurring motifs

This Playin' is deep and heady....

Grateful Dead Live at Parc des Expositions on 1974-09-18 (September 18, 1974)

Check out these riffs...

11:20-55 - repetitive running riff

12:20 - 13:15 Super funk riff

That funk riff is burned into my brain permanently for some reason. I keep coming back to this one...


Great Topic!!!

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Poster: rdenirojb87 Date: Oct 22, 2011 10:20am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Recurring motifs

you certainly needn't apologize for being esoteric. this is EXACTLY the kind of topic that true deadheads find fascinating. best thread i've seen in a long time.